BY BYRON MUTINGWENDE
Together As One (TAO) has embarked on projects meant to address problems that domestic migrant workers face when they flee to other countries in search of greener pastures.
This was brought to the fore by Washington Masenda, TAO director while launching the “Advancing the rights of domestic workers and supporting victims of human trafficking in Zimbabwe” project that was held at Jameson Hotel in Harare on Tuesday.
“Zimbabwe is a source, transit, and destination country for people trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and sexual exploitation. There has been a large scale migration of Zimbabweans to surrounding countries as they flee a progressively more desperate situation at home.
“This is because currently Zimbabwe is faced with high unemployment rate, closure of companies and poor performance of the agricultural sector which used to be the greatest employer. Anecdotal and factual statistics from neighbouring countries like South Africa and Botswana paint a picture of an upsurge arriving in these countries through illegal means, including human trafficking. Domestic workers like garden boys, maids and shop workers are more prone to abuse,” Masenda said.
He said that Zimbabwean men, women, and children are also trafficked internally to farms for agricultural labour and domestic servitude and to cities for domestic labour and commercial sexual exploitation.
“Young boys and girls who have just completed school are easiest targets as they are promised jobs with good salaries and a good standard of living. In this way they are taken to towns and cities, far away from their parents and relatives where they are forced to do immoral activities or end up being domestic workers.
“Such people are reluctant to go back to their homes for fear or being stigmatised by communities where the come from. Women and children are trafficked for domestic labour and sexual exploitation including in brothels, along both sides of the borders with Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zambia.”
Quoting Christopher Mutsvangwa, Masenda said young Zimbabwean women and girls are lured to South Africa, the People’s Republic of China, Egypt, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada with false employment offers that result in involuntary domestic servitude or commercial sexual exploitation.
Apart from Zimbabweans who are being trafficked to different parts of the world, Zimbabwe has also emerged as a prime transit corridor for human trafficking. Men, women, and children from neighbouring countries like Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia are trafficked through Zimbabwe en-route to South Africa and other destinations.
“The Zimbabwe law enforcement agencies are not very well equipped to deal with human traffickers, allowing human traffickers to take advantage of this lapse in law enforcement.
“Zimbabwe is also a receiver of migrants who end up working as domestic workers and sex workers. These migrants are largely from neighbouring countries and they are lured with promises of good jobs. As this happens at a time when the economy of Zimbabwe is not performing well, one is tempted to ask what attracts these people to Zimbabwe.
“It is widely believed that the use of the US dollar in Zimbabwe is luring a lot of people for they enjoy exchange rate gains when they take US dollars back to their countries of origin. This has become the slogan for human traffickers as they lure people to come into
Zimbabwe promising those well-paying jobs, yet they end up being sex workers or domestic workers,” Masenda said.
He bemoaned the growing number of illegal Zimbabwean migrants deported from South Africa and Botswana.
“This scenario presents a chance to effectively identify victims of trafficking among returnees. With this arises an opportunity for encouraging victims of human trafficking to assist in the prosecution of traffickers. There are also reported cases of people being trafficked from Zimbabwe to other countries like South Africa and Botswana, indicating the existence of a thriving network of human traffickers in Zimbabwe.
“It is therefore against this background that the project will be implemented with a view of advancing the rights of migrant domestic workers and supporting victims of human trafficking so that they are able to go through the trauma of trafficking and get back to their normal lives.”
TAO runs rural and urban organized knowledge outreach project which seeks to bridge the knowledge gaps through capacity building for rural and urban populaces. For this they have Mugariro project which provokes the community and its leadership to take action against women and children mal-treatment , Media Alive project which targets young people and the Safety, Health, Awareness National Dialogue and Action project targeting workplaces.
Examples of projects that were implemented successfully include Annual Mugariro Community Winter Festival which is a campaign against gross violation of children and Young people’s rights. These rights included action against forced labour, which by extension comes about through human trafficking.
Mugariro project is still being implemented by the organisation and targets children and women as key beneficiaries through bringing to the table real issues. The project brings together target communities, service providers, policy makers and stakeholders with an interest in the wellbeing and development of the society and nation at large through action provoking platforms on child maltreatment in areas including physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and child trafficking. In advocating for improved livelihood for women and children, together as one with its partners including ministry of Health, UNICEF and others developed and sourced communication and utility material and implements the project on a one year cycle.
TAO is running the Domestic Servitude and Human Trafficking project over a period of 24 months meant to create an awareness of and foster upholding of the rights of migrant domestic workers and support victims of human trafficking to get back to normal life.
The project is specifically meant to create a national awareness of the rights of migrant domestic workers; create an awareness among migrant domestic workers of their rights; foster the upholding of the rights of migrant domestic workers; create a national awareness of the dangers of human trafficking and offer initial support and referral to expert assistance to victims of human trafficking.
The targeted beneficiaries of this project are migrant domestic workers, victims of human trafficking, and people in areas where there is a high rate of human trafficking.
“For the migrant domestic workers the thrust will be to make them aware of their rights and how they can enjoy these rights. When it comes to victims of human trafficking, the thrust will be to help them get back home if they are far away from home and also to refer them to specialist counsellors who can provide psychosocial support to them so that they are able to lead their normal lives after the trauma they go through during the trafficking. People in areas where there is high human trafficking will also benefit from information which will help them not to fall victims to human trafficking,” said Tichaona Mutore, TAO programmes manager.